Fredi G., the Braves and the four-out save: It’s getting weird, folks

Atlanta Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez throws during batting practice before a baseball game against the Miami Marlins, Saturday, April 16, 2016, in Miami. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

Could the skipper himself contribute a six-out save? (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

The nine-game losing streak ended with a four-out save from Arodys Vizcanio, which was weird: Had Fredi Gonzalez considered the possibility of a six-out save from the same reliever on Opening Day, the losing streak might never have begun. Weirder still was Gonzalez’s reaction to the Atlanta Braves’ first victory of 2016.

He told reporters: “I’m not real happy about my usage of the bullpen, to be brutally honest with you … I don’t like putting players in position where they may hurt themselves. And I think Vizcaino — not that he got hurt or anything — Vizcaino throwing 35 pitches in Game (10) of a season, it doesn’t sit well with me. But we won the game, and he may not pitch again until, like, Wednesday.”

Credit Fredi G. for wanting to protect his relievers. (We might recall that the same Fredi G. was accused of running his relievers, Jonny Venters and Craig Kimbrel especially, into the ground in 2011, the season that concluded with the Braves’ epic September collapse.) Credit the manager for erring on the side of health. But I’m not sure he scored any points with upper management, which was clearly distressed by the 0-9 start.

Speaking with Mark Bowman of MLB.com, general manager John Coppolella said: “We feel we have a better team than we did in 2015 … We need to start playing better and winning more games.”

Asked if Gonzalez’s job might be in jeopardy if the losing continued, Coppolella said: “We care about Fredi, and we all hope we can turn things around and start winning games. That will take the pressure off everybody.”

That wasn’t the dreaded Vote Of Confidence. That was very close to a Vote Of No Confidence. If the streak hadn’t been broken by Vizcaino’s four-out save and the Braves were 0-12 today, they might well be holding a press conference this afternoon.

But they’re 3-9, having swept the Marlins. That’s better than 0-12. It’s still not good. If the Braves play .250 ball over a full season, they’ll finish 41-121. That would be a modern-era record for losses. But enough about that. Back to Gonzalez and the multi-inning save.

As Fredi G. sort of promised, Vizcaino wasn’t available Sunday after taking Saturday off. We stipulate that 35 pitches is indeed a lot for a closer — the most the 25-year-old Vizcaino, who had Tommy John surgery in 2012, had thrown in a big-league game. (The Braves traded him to the Cubs while he was recovering, if you recall.) There’s no way he should have worked the next night. But to miss Sunday’s game, too?

(Not-so-fun fact on Vizcaino: Between Opening Day and Friday night, he worked in three games. In none of those were the Braves tied or leading. He finished the eighth Tuesday in Washington after Bryce Harper hit the decisive double off Eric O’Flaherty; he worked a 16-pitch eighth Thursday in a game the Braves trailed 6-2.)

As it happened, the Braves wasted a 5-0 lead Sunday. Jason Grilli, who’d blown the save on Opening Day when Vizcaino wasn’t recalled for the ninth after throwing 16 pitches in the eighth, blew this one, too. The Braves retook the lead in the 10th. Summoned to close was Matt Wisler, a 23-year-old starting pitcher. He got through it without yielding a baserunner. The Braves had their sweep. But think about it.

The response to Vizcaino throwing 35 pitches was to let a trained reliever sit for two days — and the Braves are off today, making it at least a three-day break — while turning to a starter, who’s accustomed to working every fifth day, on Day 4. Yes, it was only for one inning. Yes, it worked. Yes, it was Outside The Box. But I’m not sure that was a box that needed opening. If it was wrong to commission a four-out save in Game 10, was it better to use a young starter in relief in Game 12?

Last week in this space, much was made of the managerial decisions made/unmade over the Braves’ first seven losses. The first on that list was not using Vizcaino for a six-out save in Game 1. Some among you responded by saying, “No manager would do that on Opening Day.” That was the point, kind of. Wouldn’t you want your manager to be ahead of the curve, as opposed to behind it? (Two Sundays ago, Jim Johnson stayed in after yielding four consecutive baserunners and the tying and go-ahead runs.)

I imagine upper management was pleased that Vizcaino’s 35 pitches resulted in a victory Friday night. (Nobody associated with the Braves wanted any part of 0-10.) I wonder, however, what was made of Gonzalez’s subsequent disavowal of his own tactics. And here’s the strangest part:

When a team is in deep rebuilding mode, it’s usually the manager (or coach, in other sports) who has to be convinced that winning isn’t as important as player development. Here it seems the other way around.

Reader Comments 0

29 comments
Ankit Kumar
Ankit Kumar

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AlanCoates
AlanCoates

I've never been on the Fredi bandwagon, and now I don't even have to try to keep up with it. As you have so thoroughly delineated his many questionable decisions in this missive, many of the things he has said this young season defy logic and common sense also. I think he's not on the short list for MENSA candidacy in these here parts. I'm beginning to wonder if he's had a lot of concussions that have not been reported.

TideDawg
TideDawg

@AlanCoates  Fredi was Bobby Cox's(the worst decision maker in World Series history) choice. That should give you a clue about Fredi's qualifications. Cox gained his fame by managing teams loaded with HOFers and by getting thrown out of more games than anyone in the history of the game.

TideDawg
TideDawg

What's the big deal about a 4 out save? So, a reliever had to face an extra 1 or 2 hitters. He could have that happen in a 3 out save. If they are so worried about pitch count just tell the reliever to skip his warmup pitches.:o)) Take him out of the game today and lose the game so he can pitch again tomorrow and try to save tomorrow's game......if the Braves can score. How many relief pitchers, other than the "closer" do they have, and can they only get hitters out in the 7th or 8th inning, not the 9th? They try to make geniuses out of managers changing pitchers. Other than making a lineup card and watching the game for 6-7 innings, the only thing he does is change pitchers and double switch. Probably 90% of the fans could do the same thing. Yeah, I know, there's a little more to it than that, but how much more?

Peachs
Peachs

Grumpy except when it comes to the SEC.  


I think the Braves are trying to make it out of south Atlanta alive, and the real baseball, starts next year, in Cobb. 

jebjr325
jebjr325

Come on, Mark. Are you trying to run every coach in town out of town?

Seems you have gotten grumpy in your old age.   Chill a little.

Greg Thomas
Greg Thomas

Absolutely blows my mind. There are like 4 major league players on this roster and you think Fredi is the reason they lose. A couple days ago it was Fredi's fault they lost and now they win in spite of Fredi. There is not a manager that ever lived that could do anything but finish last with their roster!

DawgDadII
DawgDadII

Irrespective of how petty the criticism is, "at this point what difference does it make?" Braves are going nowhere and these pitchers aren't likely to be around when (if) they become competitive again.

sh11
sh11

You just have to find something to complain about.  

jmccoy1252
jmccoy1252

Billy Martin, Whitey Herzog, Earl Weaver etc. could not win a Championship with the Braves as presently constructed.  Myself, I am enjoying watching the young guys develop.  That being said, Freddie Gonzalez is a mediocre Manager.  There is no consistency in the batting orders.  I'll admit, I did not like Markakis leading off, but since it's working, leave him there.  Don't give up on him because he hits a slow streak.  But, in all honesty the best thing for the Braves will be when Freddie Gonzalez is gone.  The Braves have the Dodgers and Mets coming to town this week, so a 0-6 or even a 1-5 mark may indeed doom Freddie G.  Myself, I would like seeing Eddie Perez or Brian Snitker as the Manager working with the young guys.  I think a new voice would make things better.

Keith Parnell
Keith Parnell

what an idiot!!!  it no wonder this guy's never went anywhere else to write,  only a 2nd rate paper would continue to publish someone without a clue as to what's really going on.  3 major league offensive players in the lineup and a triple a pitcher on the mound most innings going up against allstar teams from washington most nights so far and you expect more?  it's amazing that "journalists" in this day and age rely on stupidity and annoyance to get their limited opinions over.  it's like they're not even watching the same games that everyone else does!!  what's the old saying, "it's better to let people think you're a fool than open your mouth and remove all doubt"

TideDawg
TideDawg

@Keith Parnell  Follow what they write on a day to day basis. Writers are front runners. They change their opinions like the pony express changed horses. They are non people. They don't attach themselves to what they write because it will change with the next article. The task of making sense does not concern them. You reading what they write does matter. As long as they have readers and complainers they are happy.

TheCarnivore
TheCarnivore

Thank goodness that writers don't get to influence any real decisions, or call for someone's job to be taken.  No wonder Smoltz hated this guy.

KBP
KBP

Many people questioned a lot of Bobby Cox's decisions throughout his tenure especially in World Series and playoff games. I have less concerns about Fredi because we know who he is as a manager. I am more concerned about the on field talent. Fielding errors late in games have costed us games, a blown save in the first game cost us the game. Throwing errrors have costed us games and starting pitching has been suspect and Coppolella has questions about Fredi. Really?

DeeJay55
DeeJay55

How about having Peterson and K. Johnson in the same game and Peterson is the one in left field? Maybe with Dodgers, Mets, Red Sox and Cubs coming up they can lose 14 out of 16 and we can finally be rid of this guy. I personally don't want him anywhere near any of these kids when they come up.


DawgDadII
DawgDadII

Makes me wonder if Fredi is being told how to utilize some of his players, perhaps in an attempt to elevate their trade value.

BillyGriggers
BillyGriggers

Interesting comment about using Wisler.  I remember a few years ago that the announcers were talking about the Braves could use the starter who was supposed to pitch that day between starts if the game went into extra innings.  I thought while watching the game yesterday that it was a similar situation.  I do also believe that the manager sometimes makes a decision based on the situation and not a set rule book.  I would not want to be in his position.  I am sure he has been told to win games with what he has and at the same time don't overuse or get any of the young guys hurt.  So like our Federal reserve he has a dual mandate. We see how that has been working out for the country.  I hope it works out better for him.

Stinger2
Stinger2

Mark, you seem to be in high gear with your efforts to throw Fredi under the bus. Reminds me of your successful part to get Mark Richt fired a few months ago. Fredi may not survive which is what a lot or people want to happen. 

DawgNole
DawgNole

@Stinger2

Do YOU want him to survive--given all the championships he racked up since taking the Braves' helm?

Boeingdawg
Boeingdawg

So now will Fredi put Wisler in the same boat as

he did Medlen? Start a bit, relieve a bit, close a bit, until he sends Wisler to the Tommy John table as he did twice to Medlen?

For FG to even comment on his strategies for using relievers is ludicrous. His 'strategies' are

variable from day to day and border on schizophrenic.

Ive never seen a manager so inept at managing a pitching staff....or a lineup, for that matter.

ErnestB
ErnestB

I think we all need to R-E-L-A-X.  A baseball season in not a sprint but a marathon consisting of 162 games.  All teams have streaks during the year.  Let's see what the team record is after 50 games before determining what these team will ultimately do.

DawgNole
DawgNole

@ErnestB

That's what you delusional fans always say when the April losses pile up.

An loss in April means just as much as a loss in September.

UnbiasedObserver
UnbiasedObserver

As far as Fredi is concerned, it not the last 12 games that tell you everything...its the last several seasons.


Nothing has changed.


iplitigate
iplitigate

@MarkBradleyAJC The Braves had to pull out all the stops to end the streak. Sports are all about confidence. Streaks matter.

bryfree
bryfree

@MarkBradleyAJC people need to get off the ledge... This team is not so bad. Need to get inciarte back and some young pitchers in a groove

Prw3090
Prw3090

But you have to wonder, what the Hell is Fredi thinking in some of his moves concerning pitchers? He is very inconsistant at best.